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We're at Mont Avila, in the lower Laurentians, of Quebec, Canada. Located north of Montreal, in the Saint-Sauveur valley, the region is known for the world's largest night ski terrain. (Mont Avila is a 45-minute drive from Montreal's Dorval Airport. Follow Laurentian Autoroute 15 northwest, and take exit 58.)

Father and son ride snow tube.
Father and son ride snow tube.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

But not everyone is a skier. And those who do ski often like to intersperse alternative winter sports with their schussing.

Like tube sliding and snow rafting. Mont Avila has trails and lifts for both.

The advantage of snow tubing is that you need no experience. "It's like organized tobogganing," says our friend, Suzanne. "I've seen children here as young as 14 months old, as well as senior citizens."

Obviously, if they could do it, so could we.

"The louder you scream, the more fun you'll have," advises Suzanne.

We're not sure whether the screams we hear are motivated by pleasure or terror as we scrutinize the slippery slopes of packed snow.

Lifts for tubes and riders

Getting up the hill is easy. We select a couple large, black inner tubes from the pile at the base of the slope and drag them by their straps to one of the lifts.

Boy slides down Mont Avila slope.
Boy slides down Mont Avila slope.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

An attendant attaches the straps to the arms of the lift, and we slowly slide upwards, enjoying the scenery, while comfortably seated in our soft rubber Goodyear donuts.

The hard part is selecting a slope. There are two snow raft trails and 15 tube slide trails. Some are for tiny tots and children, but most are for teens and adults.

We wonder whether their names are any indication of the thrills they offer: B-52, F-18, the Concord and Kamakazi. "They're only dangerous if you do something foolish," says Suzanne, reading our thoughts. "There were accidents when kids tried to play bowling with the tubes, using them like balls to strike tubers below them."

We needn't worry. Employees, at the top of each lift, ensure that tubes are well out of the way before launching the next set of riders down the hill.

A group rides tubes tied together.
A group rides tubes tied together.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Rules for snow tubing

"There are only three more rules," explains Suzanne. "First, make sure that the air valve isn't pointed up." (It's not comfortable.) "Second, don't let your bum drag in the hole." (You can tear or wear out your pants.) "Finally, scream!"

Riders at bottom of hill
Riders at bottom of hill
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

And scream we do, as we plunge down the slope, tied together. What Suzanne didn't tell us is that even though you might start your descent facing downward, the tube rotates as you go, giving you a 360-degree view of the trees and banked sides of the run.

The sensation is somewhat like zipping down a waterslide in summer, except here, snow sprays in all directions, sticking to your hair and eyelashes, and filling your mouth — which will no doubt be open, as you scream.

All too soon the ride is over. We look like snowmen, with the fluffy powder clinging to our clothes. Laughing, we tow our tubes back to the lift.

It's obvious now.

The sounds we hear are screams of delight.


Mont Avila tubing and snow rafting

More things to see and do in the Quebec Laurentians:

Château Beauvallon Mont-Tremblant

Bistro à Champlain Dining in Quebec Laurentians

Quebec Sugar Shack Cabane à Sucre Arthur-Raymond